See what is known about the Omicron type of coronavirus

See what is known about the Omicron type of coronavirus

Passengers queue for PCR test at Johannesburg Airport on 27 November 2021

The omicron version of the coronavirus discovered by South African researchers is rare and contains a large number of mutations, making it highly transmissible.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday spoke of a “worrying” version that has caused global panic and a ban on international flights.

Scientists work round the clock to analyze it and try to understand its behavior. This is known from the elements shared by South African scientists.

– Original –

The origins of this new breed are currently unknown, but South African researchers were the first to announce their discovery on 25 November. Cases were reported in Hong Kong and Botswana that day. A day later, it was Israel and Belgium’s turn.

– mutation –

On November 23, researchers discovered a new variant with a “very unusual constellation of mutations.” Some familiar, some new.

“It has the highest number of mutations we have seen so far,” Professor Mosa Moshabela, in charge of research and innovation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (south-eastern South Africa), told AFP. “Some have already been observed in delta and beta, but others are unknown … and we don’t know what this combination of mutations would look like.”

In the spike protein, the key to the virus’s entry into the body, the researchers observed more than 30 mutations, a key element compared to other dangerous types.

– Streaming –

The speed at which new daily cases of COVID-19 are increasing in South Africa, many related to Omicron, suggests that it is due to the strain’s strong transmission potential.

According to official data, this week the daily positive rate for coronavirus rose from 3.6% on Wednesday to 6.5% on Thursday and 9.1% on Friday.

“Some of the mutations we have seen in the past have allowed the virus to spread more quickly and easily. Therefore, we suspect that this new variant spreads very quickly”, explains Professor Moshabella.

– Immunity and Vaccines –

Based on previously available data, Moshabella says that given the few cases of the pandemic, “much higher than in previous waves”, one might think that the variant dominates immunity.

This may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines to an extent that has yet to be determined.

– the severity of the disease –

This is the great unknown. Less than a week has passed since the variant was detected, leaving little time to clinically determine the severity of the cases.


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About the author: Muhammad Wayne

Wayne is a reporter who covers everything from oil trading to China's biggest conglomerates and technology companies. Originally from Chicago, he is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

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